An Always Exploration Mode Can Help You Achieve More

An Always Exploration Mode Can Help You Achieve More

What is this?

Why does it happen?

Let’s do it again.

Any parent of young children would surely have had to answer the same question about the same topic over and over again. Children are in a continuous exploration and experimentation mode, and this is all part of their brain learning about the world. The repetition allows the information to sink into their brain. The voicing out loud makes the information more real. The questions from different angles, what is it, why does it happen, how does it work, when will it be done, all shows the intricacies of the young mind exploring the vast world they live in.

Working executives can make these young children their example, and not settle by thinking their know everything about the world or their environment. Sure, you are an expert in your area of work, but it is always good to remind oneself that everyday is a learning day and you can learn from anything or anyone, if you have the right attitude and exploration mode of a child.

In fact, asking question, the right questions, will not only let your mind grow, it will also let the people around you think you know your stuff well. Repetition in the working world can be seen as iterative improvements in how we do something. Why keep sending the same report week on week, when you can continuously improve the way you present the data.

Is there a important project you are working on right now? Are you asking the right questions? Are you asking all the questions? Can you continuously iterate and improve the way you tackle the project? Start learning from young children and get into the exploration mode.

Share your thoughts about how you went into exploration mode in the comments, I love to hear from you.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column that combines 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Parallel Play is Killing Your Organization

Parallel Play is Killing Your Organization

Parallel play is a term used on toddlers aged 1 – 2 yrs old, whereby many children come together to play, but are in fact, each playing on their own and doing their own things. They acknowledge the fact that they are in a group, but there are no interactions, except of the occasional outburst of cries, typically when one child snatches a toy of another, i.e. “they step on each others toes”

In corporations, big or small, there is a strong tendency for teams to engage in parallel play too, unless there is a strong counter-balance and an intentional will for non-parallel play, i.e. team work, to happen.

Team that operates in silos, with their own goals and KPIs. They have their own methodology of doing things, they protect their way of doing things, and build up barriers for outside intervention and scrutiny.

Let’s take a look at the goals of various teams at a Creative agency:

Accounts team: Charge with managing the client relationship and maximizing profits for the agency, i.e. More billable work, better yet, more billable high-margin work

Creative team: Winning creative awards around the world, i.e. the fancier the idea the better

Production team: Get it out of the door as quickly, i.e. it needs to be done quickly, with most efficient use of resources

Now, let’s take a look at the conflicts:

More billable high-margin work might involve a lot of production resource

Fancier ideas doesn’t always equate to billable high-margin work (let alone work that meets client’s objectives)

Get it out of the door doesn’t always produce quality the client will be satisfied

Now, that’s only 1 way to look at silos.

There are countless ways where teams within the same organisation have conflicting interests and only appear to be cooperating.

Working together

Moving away from parallel play is difficult but it can be done.

The will to get it done

Working together requires a will – the will of all senior management – that then flows down to the mid-level managers and so on. It needs to be a concerted effort from the top down, otherwise, each team would not play ball and in fact, raise their guard against other teams’s “tampering”.

The regular checks

I suggest bi-weekly status checks in the onset, but then can gradually become monthly and then quarterly checks on how each teams are sharing information, any cooperation projects, etc

The celebration as a team

When things go well, celebrate it as a team, huddle up and bring everyone on board – all hands on deck – to give everyone who had a part to play a sense of satisfaction. It is after all a team effort in almost all kinds of project success.

Are you tired of parallel play in your organization?

Do you want to have meaningful collaboration that will lead to breakthroughs?

Share your thoughts in the comments, I love to hear from you.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Nurturing Engaged Employees in an Entitled World

Nurturing Engaged Employees in an Entitled World

Christmas is just over and we all have received numerous presents from family and friends. Our kids each have around 6 – 10 presents each, and it truly is a wonderful thing to see their joy and laughter when they rip open their presents.

However, I start to wonder how to get my kids to appreciate things in life and not feel like all these goodies are their entitlement.

As parents, I’m sure you have heard “this is mine”, “I want this doll for my present.” or “Where is mine?”.

At the work place, especially when it is year end and review time, the sense of entitlement becomes stronger as employees reflect on their work for the year and what it means for their bonuses and next year’s raise.

As managers, I’m sure you have heard “I put in a lot of effort.”, “I work late every day”, “I did the most work.”, “The other team has that too.”

Many employees have the perception that because they put in the same or more effort or time on something they should be rewarded the same or more for it. Some even believe that since everyone has the same benefit, they should too. The sense of entitlement is very strong, and I find it even more so when we start to manage younger employees.

While these misplaced “sense of entitlement” goes a long way deeper into the person’s candidates and it possibly a family upbringing issue, we can still put some measures in place at the work place to guide these young employees along.

Let’s look at 3 ways to avoid entitled employees …

1. Expect More

First always give credit if your employee does great work. However, finish off your compliment with something along the lines of setting the next challenge or think about how we can make the next one even more awesome. This emphasizes that work and learning is always a continuous process and there will always be a new mountain to climb, or a new medal to be won. It’s also true that when you hold people to higher standards, they typically will meet and/or even beat it.

2. Hand over the reins

Let employees take control of the project, let them be responsible and accountable for the project deliverable. Give employees the freedom and independence to make decisions and execute projects based on their judgement and ability. Don’t spoon feed them. (Reference my earlier post: Embrace the mess If required, provide guidance and point them in the right direction, but don’t just give the answers. You short change them and they think it’s the way the system works, i.e. getting answers to problems is easy.

3. Emphasize team work

Very rarely in a work environment you can work independently and achieve significant goals without the help of others. Very early on, always emphasize the importance of team work. The team grows, you grow too. The team learns, you learn too. Doing this, helps employees watch out for each other (hopefully, not step on each others toes too) and foster a sense of achieving together. Since there is lesser emphasize on self, there will be lesser issues of self-entitlement.

So, with the year end reviews on-going, do take note on how to steer your employees in the right direction of being an engaged employee – expect more from them, evaluate if you have given them sufficient freedom and independence and finally, make it a team effort.

On a personal parenting note, I notice my kid, recently, building up a strong sense of self-entitlement. I realized it’s an issue with over emphasizing their needs over the family and also the multitudes of gifts and presents from everyone (thank you, nonetheless). So, for 2017, my kid will be helping around more in the house, I will have higher expectations of their work, and I will strongly emphasize the family (parents and siblings) as a priority over self. And, yes, less presents and gifts from all you kind folks out there. 🙂 

This article takes its learning from the successful parenting book by Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World (

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Embrace The Mess

Embrace The Mess

Most parents feel extremely uncomfortable at letting their child feed themselves, especially early on.

Most parents feel extremely uncomfortable at letting go. Period.

The thought of having to clean up both the child and the food mess after the meal sends shivers down the spines of the exhausted parent.

Yet, if parents were to always hold the spoon, the child would never learn to independently manoeuvre the meal themselves.

As managers in the workplace, it is often an urge to overly manage a situation, to pore over decision, to treat reporting colleagues as the little child who is unable to handle their meal and do the job for them. This creates 2 problems: (1) an unhealthy environment which does not support learning and independence from the staff, (2) a possible overworked manager who will then have decreased efficiency and lesser time to spend on things that really matter (i.e. setting the vision, the goals and developing the strategy).

So, let’s look at how parents and managers can learn to let go and embrace the mess.

1. Provide age appropriate food or experience appropriate tasks

At about 6 months, infants start to develop some form, though a bit limited, of motor skills where they can grab things with their hands (not fingers). Then they graduate on to develop fine motor skills where they can pick up items with their fingers. Coordinating a spoon to scoop food and successfully get to the mouth is also a developmental milestone in itself.

6 months: Mashed veges/etc in a bowl with a small spoon

Let the little one feed themselves. Don’t worry about the messy face, the spurts on the floor. And, keep a backup bowl to complete the meal.

9 months: Small chunks of boiled veges/etc

Let the little one grab these up and shoved them into their mouths. Don’t worry about the rubbing of dirty fingers on the table.

12 months: Smaller pieces of boiled veges/snacks/etc

Let them have fun picking at the pieces. Don’t worry about dropping on the floor.

24 months: Cut-down pieces of normal food

Let them use their spoon and fork to eat. Don’t worry about the dirty face and messy floors

At work?

a. Evaluate the experience of your sub-ordinate and give them tasks that is within or slightly above their skill set. This will enable them to build confidence and pride in their work.

b. Gradually adjust the type of work to fit the developmental milestones achieved.

Pull data only >> to prepare charts >> to develop presentation >> to present the plan

c. Be flexible: repeat certain tasks to build up a reflex memory, go back to basics when necessary to build confidence, step forward with challenges to increase skill level – this steps can happen in any order and at any time.

2. Get the right utensils/gear or the right tools in place

Gear up with a full-body bib or a simple bib depending on your child’s age.

Use spoons and forks with appropriate length (IMO most utensils are produced too long, as children tend to grab them from the edge)

Use a deeper spoon to so the food doesn’t fall over when travelling from bowl to mouth

At work?

Are the right tools in place? Laptop? Screens? Software (with license)? Conference facilities?

Are the right teams in place? Data-processing (can’t expect inexperienced analyst to pull from database immediately)? Templates (PPT, WORD, Excel, Charts, most business processes have templates to leverage on immediately. By template, I also mean previous documents as a guide of what is expected)

Are the right help channels available? What if something fails? Are they able to report and get help quickly?

3. Encourage, encourage, encourage

For a infant growing to be a toddler than child, it is a steady but sure process with almost defined process. Encourage them all the way, so they have the confidence to continue learning.

For a younger executive, encouragement should also be appropriately given. It needn’t be the rah-rah hyped-up encouragement every day, but it can be smaller and simpler forms of encouragement. For example, a congratulatory email on a job well done, or a coffee/tea to celebrate a project completed, on a larger scale monetary incentives can also serve as good encouragement, though that should not always be the case.

In conclusion, start embracing the mess with your kids or your team members. Define appropriate tasks, get the right tools and encourage them to keep going.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

The Power of Pause

The Power of Pause


Take 5 minutes.

Let the baby cry. Let them soothe themselves. Let them learn to fall back asleep independently.

Let the child fall down. Let them feel the full impact of the fall. Let them feel the pain. Let them feel the emotion: fear/anger. Let them learn to get back up. Let them learn to continue playing.

The kid does/wants something not right. You begin to muster a “No!”. You decided to not yell. You inform your kid to let go. You tell each other to go to the room. And, you calm down. Before “re-grouping” to discuss the pros and cons of that “no-no” thing.


This is the power of pause. The power not to react to the situation but to positively manage a situation.

Mastering this skill will aid parents to have positive, respectful and healthy relationships with their children. Yet, mastering this skill takes time and effort; as parents need to re-think their roles of raising children from that of over-protection and instruction to one that is nurturing and freedom to learn.

Translating this to the workplace, managers who practise The power of pause, too will nurture young executives that will be respectful, independent and positive.

So, why pause?

1. Experience the full experience

The pause allows the child to experience the event and the emotion in totality. Be it anger, be it fear, be it excitement, these are all useful emotions for the child to experience. Only by experiencing it, will they know what it is and how to manage it the next time they encounter it.

In the workplace, executives will learn to experience a difficult situation: challenges from cross function teams, threats from colleagues, excitement of a new project, etc … and will help them to develop better Emotional Quotient (EQ) to better cope in similar future situations.

2. Independent learning

When a parent pauses for the child to pick himself up, to find the toy themselves, to fall back to sleep independently, the child will be learning a skill for the future. They will also learn independence, which is extremely important in society.

Similarly, independence in the workplace is highly valued. The ability for an executive to independently problem solve, complete a task and manage a situation is a fundamental skill that most to all hiring mangers look out for. So, don’t rob the opportunity to learn from them, by hurrying in to “save the day” on every occasion. If you can “afford” the mistake, financially or physically, give them the space to fall down and pick themselves up. Allow them to learn from their mistakes.

3. Failing is ok

Everyone wants success. Yet, we all know that before every success there would be many failures. Each failure is a learning experience and an opportunity to grow emotionally, learn new skills and develop a strong and resilient character. By pausing and letting the child or the executive fail, can be painful to watch, but in the long run, you know that it is beneficial to them. After all, society doesn’t only need successes, we also need people who are able to pick themselves up and keep on going … independently.


Think about who around you at work do you need to give pause to.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

“No” is the new “Yes”

"No" is the new "Yes"

We don’t say NO enough to our kids, to our colleagues, to our clients, … (we do say it most to ourselves!)

Anyone who is/was a parent of a toddler would surely recall countless situations where the kid (somehow super charged on steroids) constantly and repeatedly makes request to you. Can I have this? Can I have that? One piece will do? One more ok? etc … it is like a real-world DoS attack on the parent, till the parent times out and frustratingly agrees, “yes, yes, just take it and go.”

Maybe it’s the way we humans are wired, to be inherently nice. We say yes to colleagues request more often than not. We say yes to client’s request all the time. We say yes to demanding bosses. … the story goes on.

It is time to say: NO

No, you can’t have another cookie.

No, you can’t watch TV before bed.

No, I can’t help you with this project.

No, this is too last minute, our team needs at least 2 days to complete the proposal.

No, this is not up to standard.

No, I will not respond to email after work hours, call me if there is an urgent matter.

Saying “No”, helps setup boundaries to your work and allows you to focus on the task at hand. For the receiving party, it helps them to respect your time and also you as a person/colleague.

As a parent, it teaches your kids to respect you and that what you say matters.

By rejecting tasks allows you to focus on what’s really important and hence make a more significant difference.

Taking a saying from Steve Jobs,

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Ok, I’m not asking you to turn into a rude and unfriendly colleague, but to re-evaluate what requires your attention, and what can be delegated, re-assigned or simply turned away.

How do you evaluate if a task needs to get done?

1. Use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle

Without going into too much details, work on the tasks that are urgent and important, and always try your very best to say “No” to the distractions and interruptions.

2. Is this a favour you need to give back, or is there a favour you need in the future?

Pay it forward with a helpful gesture, even if it means going out of your way. Perhaps, a colleague had helped you out before and needs your assistance this time round; or you foresee in the near future you require your colleagues help. Then it might be justifiable to give a “Yes”.

3. Do you have a direct interest in the matter?

Let’s say HR comes to enlist your help to organize the company party, and you, being the fun you, loves to party. Since it coincides with interest, why not jump in and nurture your interest at the same time. It could be as simple as being a event photographer, to more complex matters such as researching potential new markets to develop.

At the end of the day, you’ll have evaluate your priorities and determine where your time can be better spent.

Start saying No, and focus on what is truly important.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Prepare for a proper on-boarding (delivery)

Prepare for a proper on-boarding (delivery)

You waited 10 months and now is time for the baby to be delivered. Now, the job really begins.

Most managers think that when the candidate has been hired, their job is done. This person will come to work and get to work immediately. This candidate should be independent, self-motivated and a do-er, and hence, can jump right into the deep end and get things done.

Well, it isn’t always this simple.

Just like delivering a baby, your job as a hiring manager has just begun when the candidate comes on-board.

1. Be prepared

Parents have a delivery bag that consists of all the essential items required for the delivery. They also have prepared the baby room, the bed, the clothing, etc, all in preparation and anticipation for the arrival of the little one.

For a company, welcome your new hire on the first day of work. Don’t leave them high and dry with no supervision. Make sure their work station is setup and their computers are ready for use. Give them guidance as to where to get information, or let them know who to approach. Also, you don’t always have to get the new hire to come in on Monday morning, if you think your company’s schedule is busiest on Monday. A Friday onboarding, when everyone is more relaxed, might also be a good option.

Linkedin has a whole section on the topic – on boarding:

If you use Trello for PM, then also have a look at this Trello example board:

2. Embrace them into the family

It is common for the extended family to all be excited about the new arrival, each taking turns to cuddle the baby. Translating to the work place, key stakeholders of the team should welcome the new hire. At the very least, a simple handshake and a quick chat, followed up later with a more formal catch up on what each individual is working on.

A welcome meal is also very useful to build that bond right from the beginning.

3. Setup a work plan

Parents setup a schedule for taking care of their baby, feeding time, pooping time, sleeping time, etc and your company should too. It needn’t be a down to the minute plan like for babies, but it needs to provide a framework to guide the new hire on what to focus on in the first few weeks. So things like WIPs, weekly reporting, etc can be scheduled.

4. Be flexible

Parents learn to be flexible to accommodate the arrival of the new baby. Companies should also allow themselves some flexibility when new hires come on-board. The new hire is learning to adapt and your role as hiring manager would be to be flexible and guide them in the right direction. Specifically, it is ok for mistakes early on and I will get to that in future posts. This is also the time to adjust to each other’s working style (think DISC).

Time to start preparing?

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Hiring is the workplace’s 10-months pregnancy

Hiring is the workplace's 10-months pregnancy

Hiring for a new position can take a while, anything from a couple of days to months on end (some positions even longer than 10 months). It can also be one of the most “distracting” task, unless your job is recruitment.

From preparing the JD, to getting the word out, to sifting through potential candidates, it can really be a long process. There are many rounds of evaluation and interviews. At anytime during the hiring process, candidates can go cold, positions can be closed, etc. (You get the spill.)

Parents-to-be go through their 10 month pregnancy stage in a very similar fashion. It takes ~10 months for a pregnancy to come to full term, there are ups & downs throughout the way, there can be mishaps, and it takes a team effort to eventually delivery the baby.

So, what can we learn?

Below are 4 things I picked up from parenting that applies to hiring:

1. Be excited

Parents to be are excited about what’s installed and you should to as a hiring manager. This new candidate is going to fill a position that will add certain value to your work place. Be excited and rub off that excitement to your candidates. No one wants a boss or colleague that feels dispassionate about what they are doing.

2. Show care and respect

The unborn child is treated with loads of care and concern, mums feed themselves well, rest well and makes sure to get good regular exercise so ensure the child gets the best care. During the hiring process, candidates should also be treated with care and, in this instance, respect. It provides an indication of whether the company is an inclusive company, it gives a glimpse into the culture of the company, and it makes you as the hiring manager human.

3. Be consistent with follow ups

Monthly and then weekly and finally daily, parents visit their doctors for follow up checks. At every appointment, the team of doctors and nurses provides the same consistent care and dedication to caring for the mum and child. As we bring our candidate through the hiring process, from various interviews, to evaluation tests, ensure that your company’s communication is consistent. A dedicated person handles the communication with the candidate and knows exactly what the next step will be. This will install confidence in the candidate, similar to how the care giving team instills confidence for parents.

4. Start learning early

Pre-natal learning is a huge deal for parents to be. (Wikipedia: Research shows the unborn child has developed senses that allows them to pick up sound and start learning and development from an early stage. During hiring, don’t be obsess with only learning about what the candidate can do, but also dedicate time during the interview to let the candidate learn about your company and yourself. Remember that it is not enough for the company to select a candidate, the candidate must also be willing to join the company.

10 months sounds long, but it usually goes by very quickly. However long it takes for hiring, looking back it will also feel very quick. So, enjoy every moment and remember to start on the right footing, for continued success into your candidate’s actual career.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

“Parenting is the new MBA: Succeed at work by applying parenting skills” is a column combines of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

Introducing “Parenting is the new MBA”, Succeed at work by applying parenting skills.”

Introducing "Parenting is the new MBA", Succeed at work by applying parenting skills.”

This column will be culmination of 2 distinct areas of my life: my professional view on workplace management & my personal experience as a parent.

These 2 seemingly unrelated fields are IMO very related.

Executives take an MBA program to learn about general business administration, which covers various topics such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources and operations. (Wikipedia: MBA)

In subsequent posts, I will explore how being a parent and having developed the skills to raise children can be applied to the work place to be successful managers, team players, leaders and entrepreneurs.

As a quick example, don’t we all as parents want to train our kids to be patient, independent, plays nice with others, hardworking, optimistic, go-getter, etc … which in turn, are the same qualities we look out for or want to nurture in our colleagues.

#ParentingIsTheNewMBA #SucceedAtWork #CareerTips #ParentingSkills

Revisions: The original title of the post “Introducing “Parenting tips for Workplace success” and some portion of the original text has been revised.


This is a shout out to 2 fantastic speakers, Chris Reed and Eric Sim, whom I met at a recent event (ClickZ Shanghai) , and have inspired me to embark on writing my own personal/professional column on LinkedIn.